Corinne Maier’s Bonjour Laziness is, or tries to be, an unsparing look at corporate culture. Maier advocates “active disengagement" from one’s workplace, and examines the sort of near-propaganda that runs rampant in the office. She deconstructs the strange culture of work and puts forth the idea of doing nothing as a means to surviving the soul-sucking wasteland that is the modern work environment.
America is the leader of the business world, and Corinne Maier understands that. But does she understand the American workplace? Maier is French, and spends much of the book referring to French authors and the European work environment, so that the reader must separate out her generalities from the statements that pertain more to France than the U.S. While she makes many good points, she seems so giddy about her ideas that it takes away from the logic of what she’s trying to say.
One of the major problems with this book is that a lot of what Maier has to say is fairly obvious. For example, an interesting fact Maier brings to our attention is that the French word for “work," travail, is derived from the same root as the French word for “torture." While I couldn’t verify this, it is an interesting factoid. Also interesting to note, something I found out for myself, is that one definition of the English word “travail" is “pain, anguish or suffering resulting from mental or physical hardship," which seems to support her claim. But what is Maier trying to tell us with this information? We already know that work sucks. She didn’t need to write a book to tell us that.
Bonjour Laziness is almost painfully irreverent. It seems that Maier was almost more concerned with finding the right attitude for her book than with finding a relevant message. With only six chapters, an introduction and a conclusion, the book is short and to the point, but the point itself is mired in the preciousness of her expression. Some chapter titles are “The Idiots You Rub Shoulders With" and “Begin Your Sabotage Tomorrow." Her disdain is apparent, but she doesn’t seem to have a lot to express beyond that.
It’s great that Maier is trying to wake up the droning masses and get the worker bees to stand up (or lie down) in resistance. But for all her examination of the corporate culture (or lack thereof), she doesn’t really get anywhere by the end of the book except to basically reiterate that we should stop buying into the lies and emptiness that the modern workplace force upon us. It’s a good idea, but Maier’s book really only serves to give the reader permission to do so. She spends 137 pages tearing down the culture of work, but doesn’t really offer a solution more substantial than the recommendation that we disengage ourselves from it. It seems rather thin.
At the same time that it seems Bonjour Laziness is far too short to explore all the ideas she brings up, it also seems that she takes too long to say what she says. It only took me an hour and a half to finish this book, and it didn’t seem like time very well spent. A longer book could have given proper weight to Maier’s ideas, and in fleshing them out, done a real service to those trapped in the corporate mind games. But Maier stays so very shallow, tearing apart business-speak and parodying the different sorts of characters one meets in the working world, that it almost seems like a pamphlet or short booklet would have provided enough space to express her ideas. Yes, middle managers tend to be fairly boring and homogenous. No, ingenuity and intelligence aren’t very highly valued in the modern workplace. Yes, we know that we’re essentially soulless slaves, and yes, we do want to escape that fate. But what’s Maier’s point in expressing all that?
Maier does say right off the bat, “To the individualist – this book is not for you, since business is not for you," so perhaps this book wasn’t meant to be my cup of tea. It just seems that anyone who’d feel compelled to buy and read Bonjour Laziness probably already subscribes to the sort of beliefs Maier expresses, and the people whose lives and minds could be changed by Maier’s ideas wouldn’t ever pick the book up. Bonjour Laziness is cute, clever and somewhat pointless. I want my hour and a half back.